Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Gender Promotion Gaps: Career Aspirations and Workplace Discrimination

Author(s): Ghazala Y. Azmat, Vicente Cuñat and Emeric Henry

Publication Date: January 2020

Keyword(s): career aspirations, gender gaps and Promotion

Programme Area(s): Industrial Organization, Labour Economics and Public Economics

Abstract: Using a nationally representative longitudinal survey of lawyers in the U.S., we document a sizeable gap between men and women in their early aspirations to become law firm partners, despite similar early investments and educational characteristics. This aspiration gap can explain a large part of the gender promotion gap that is observed later. We propose a model to understand the role of aspirations and then empirically test its predictions. We show that aspirations create incentives to exert effort and are correlated with expectations of success and the preference for becoming a partner. We further show that aspirations are affected by early work experiences - facing harassment or demeaning comments early in the career affects long-term promotion outcomes mediated via aspirations. Our research highlights the importance of accounting for, and managing, career aspirations as an early intervention to close gender career gaps.

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Bibliographic Reference

Azmat, G, Cuñat, V and Henry, E. 2020. 'Gender Promotion Gaps: Career Aspirations and Workplace Discrimination'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.